John Farrow, Author . Random $24.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-375-50141-8

A taut and gripping mystery is on offer in Farrow's quietly powerful follow-up to City of Ice, but only once the reader gets past the jarring reverse flashbacks in the first two chapters. The opening few pages contain an information-packed summation of the novel's plot: two New York City cops have come to Montreal to consult with Det. Sgt. Émile Cinq-Mars and his partner Bill Mathers about suspicious AIDS deaths in Manhattan, which have been linked to two Montreal women known only as Saint Lucy and Camille. The story then backtracks three days to the discovery of a dead body under the ice at the Lake of Two Mountains, northwest of Montreal; when it backtracks again to December of the previous year, we learn who the dead body is, and how and why he got there. Once everything becomes chronological, the novel turns into a Hitchcockian tale of betrayal and competing interests, where the audience sees more than any of the individual characters do, and suspense is generated by knowing who the bad guys are and watching as the good guys are gulled (or killed) by them. Canadian author Farrow's style is very low-key and quiet, but it creates a kind of cold stillness in which every revelation echoes for miles; a stillness resides in Cinq-Mars, too, whose experience of human behavior gives him insight into the actions of everyone from Mohawk Indians to his dying father. In the end, it's the characters, not the mystery, despite its clever twists and turns, that carries Farrow's tale. Agent, Anne McDermid. (July 17)

Reviewed on: 06/25/2001
Release date: 07/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 384 pages - 978-0-00-225514-1
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